02/01/2016 2:26PM

Old English Rancho gets big boost from What a View

Shigeki Kikkawa
What a View wins the California Cup Turf Classic on Jan. 30 at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The gamble was there for all to see.

When entries were taken for last Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic at Santa Anita, What a View was the lone supplement, for $25,000, in the field of 12. The 5-year-old What a View was not nominated to the Golden State series as a yearling, requiring a hefty late payment. He was slow to develop on the track, a winner in his fourth start last August.

That seemed much longer than five months ago late Saturday afternoon, when What a View swooped past pacesetter Image of Joplin to win the Cal Cup Turf Classic by 3 1/4 lengths. What a View earned $137,500, more than recouping the supplemental investment made by owners Sal and Patsy Berumen, Rob Riggio, and the family of the late Bud Johnston.

What a View won his first stakes in the Cal Cup Turf Classic and gave the Johnston family and its Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., a tremendous boost on the final weekend of January.

“It means a lot, and I’m looking forward to an outstanding 2016,” said Mary Hilvers, Bud Johnston’s daughter.

Bud Johnston died last May. Don Warren, Old English Rancho’s longtime trainer, retired last June, leaving his longtime assistant Kenny Black as trainer.

What a View is part of a group of approximately 20 runners Black trains at Santa Anita. The farm’s operation is run by Mary Hilvers’s 30-year-old son, Jonny.

Since Johnston’s passing, the farm has changed direction. Jonny Hilvers said the farm is downsizing its operation, selling some mares.

“We have to do that,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have more outside mares and cut down on the Old English Rancho mares. We’ll probably breed, including partnerships, 25 mares.”

Last month at the Barretts January mixed sale at Del Mar, the farm sold 10 horses for $35,000 owned in partnership with Patsy Berumen. One horse withdrawn from the Barretts consignment was Vronsky, the sire of What a View. Vronsky will stand for $6,500 at Old English Rancho this year.

Old English Rancho will stand five stallions for the forthcoming breeding season, including Acclamation, who won an Eclipse Award as the champion older male of 2011. Acclamation’s first foals will race as 2-year-olds this year.

“We’re looking forward to the Acclamations in the next six to eight months,” Jonny Hilvers said.

Mary Hilvers and her son represented the family in the winner’s circle. Bud’s widow, Judy Johnston, watched from Sanger, a four-hour drive from Santa Anita.

Bud Johnston was a second-generation horseman, the son of Elwood B. Johnston, who became involved in California racing and breeding in the late 1930s. Old English Rancho was based in Ontario, Calif., until 1997, when the farm was relocated to Sanger.

Mary Hilvers said the ranch needed to adjust its operation following the death of Bud Johnston.

“Obviously, when we lost Dad so unexpectedly and suddenly, there were questions on whether we’d be able to keep it going,” Mary Hilvers said in the winner’s circle. “Jonny has done such a fabulous job. It means a lot, and I’m looking forward to an outstanding 2016. We’ve got a lot of good young horses coming up.”

What a View has won 4 of 10 starts and $292,148. He won an optional claimer against open company at 1 1/8 miles on turf Dec. 26 at Santa Anita, pocketing $45,240 and justifying the start in the Cal Cup Turf Classic.

“The horse was doing really well,” Jonny Hilvers said. “He likes the course, and we wanted to take a shot.”

The next goal might be the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, a Grade 1 turf race on March 12 at Santa Anita. The race will draw the best turf milers on the circuit and will give the owners of What a View a chance to assess his ability against tougher company.

Who knows? There could be another supplemental nomination later this year. What a View is not nominated for the Breeders’ Cup program but can be made eligible for $100,000 by July 1. Another win in a big race would make that investment more feasible.